Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Negotiating Framework for an Exhibition, 3

Proposals and Agreement

Make a proposal
Once you've had a chance to assess each other's position, you're ready for proposals and suggestions to be made. Mindful of how you have prioritised your list of 'achievements' you can start to 'trade', all the time looking for opportunities to offer things that are 'cheap' for one party but that are of real value to the other.
For example, a local authority or academic gallery that has an in-house photographer could offer the artist high-quality visual documentation of their exhibition that would otherwise cost the artist large amounts. An artist may offer to recommend the gallery as a good venue to peer artists in other areas or countries, to support the gallery's 'talent spotting' aspirations.

Trading and bargaining
After this period of exploration and testing, the trading and bargaining begins in earnest. Don't assume however, that this all has to happen at once, as you may do the testing and proposal-making some weeks or days before you sit down to bargain and finalise the arrangement. In general terms, ask for more than you expect to get and don't concede too much at the beginning because you've reduced your subsequent bargaining 'chips'.

In face-to-face discussions, be aware that body language speaks volumes - leaning back and folding your arms sends a signal that you're 'closed to discussion', whilst keeping eye contact and maintaining a normal sitting position says the reverse. It is an important to listen actively, to concentrate on what the other party is saying rather than waiting for them to finish so you can jump in and make your own points. Don't always feel obliged to bring in 'new' material when you speak, you can instead summarise what has been discussed as a way of 'buying time' to decide your next move. Silence is OK too, providing time to gather thoughts for another intervention.

Nowadays, negotiation is often done via email or telephone. It's better to avoid making curt or aggressive comments that can tend to turn a collaborative negotiation into a confrontational one. Don't reply to emails or unexpected telephone calls 'off the cuff'. Always refer to the paperwork or notes from previous communications.

An agreement cannot be reached until the parties get to a position they can both 'live with'. As a matter of course, this is generally somewhere between their respective starting points. Neither party should afterwards feel they were 'backed into a corner' or browbeaten into finalising the negotiation. If someone is pressing you to agree now it's usually because they will get more out of the arrangement than you will. So best not to.

When you've reached an agreement, write up your notes as a letter noting all the areas of agreement and send to the other party, asking them to confirm by signing, dating and returning to you a second copy that you have provided. Either artist or exhibition organiser can write up the agreement.

Susan Jones (used with permission)

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